August 6, 2012

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I’m looking for my Tribe

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We are social creatures. It’s part of who we are. Good thing, too. It has helped us survive the more unforgiving aspects of our world. It has helped us survive disasters. It helped us survive each other. It has helped us build tribes.

Tribes provide comfort. They provide opportunity. They provide identity. Perhaps this is why so many people never leave the towns they grow up in. Often, they have everything they need. Others sometimes don’t. They may hate it there. They may hate their lot in life. But at least they understand it. At least they believe they have their role to play. At least they know their tribe.

I’ve been part of a lot of tribes. But I’ve never fully felt a part of them. Always felt like I was just renting. Like a pair of sneakers—they fit for a while, but eventually I wear them out and have to go get a new pair. Seems like I’m always shoe shopping. I was in the Nebraska tribe (Actually, I’m still in that one. It has stuck. I just don’t hang my hat there). The Catholic tribe made the strongest impact on me—good and bad. But it’s one I don’t fully belong to anymore (For me, that is good).

The artist tribe got me through college, but I gave that up for the graphic designer tribe. I’ve been in that one for about 20 years. A true believer in the power and importance of design. I’m still here, but I see myself drifting away that one too. Others come and go — triathlon tribes, social tribes, work tribes, political tribes, etc. Sometimes, one common interest isn’t enough to maintain long term connection.

This isn’t, I believe, a fault of these tribes. This is just how I’m wired. It doesn’t stop me for looking for my true tribe. But I haven’t found it yet.

Jeff Goins thinks that we will always be looking for our tribe. His perspective seems to be about creating a following. A tribe that looks to you to lead them. Where? Enlightenment? Connection? Entertainment? Who knows. But even thought leaders need peers and collaborators.

Seth Godin thinks that finding a tribe is figuring out what specific thing you care the most about. And go out there online and find that small group of people who are passionate about that thing too. That is your tribe. He also stresses that it is a tribe looking for leadership. He tasks you to be that leader.

Steven Pressfield makes the point in Turning Pro that “There is no tribe.” What you think of as a tribe are just a collection of individuals with their own individual problems. Friends come and friends go. They will match up with you at whatever stage you are in life. I.E. Don’t give a shit about the tribe. They are too busy dealing with their own stuff, too.

I find these perspectives interesting because each of these authors—at one point or another—has struggled with the same thing I struggle with—the desire for connection and community. One thing that society doesn’t prepare you for is the fact that if you evolve—and a lot of you do evolve—your tribe will evolve too. That means letting go. Of ideas. Of relationships. Of the security of the old tribe, while you search for the new one.

I think Pressfield has the best perspective about it: Don’t go looking for it. Just do your own thing. Commit to it. And the right connections will eventually begin to appear. This is definitely the hardest path. And definitely the most rewarding one if you are willing to pay the price.

That might be the key to all of it—the price. The bigger the price you pay to be a part of your tribe, the more meaningful it becomes to you—and to them. So whatever tribe you are looking for, what will it cost you to get there? Whatever tribe you are a part of today, what does it cost you to stay? Deep down, you probably know the answer.

Deep down, I do too.

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  • http://www.hoorayforeverybody.com John Barousse

    Great post, Matt!

    • http://www.fangmandesign.com mattfangman

      Thanks John!

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